Sunday, January 31, 2010

What's The Diffuse?

My syndrome has again prevailed. The free-wheeling Augie March swept into view and carried me away from the strata of Naturalism. I picked up Home of the Gentry by Turgenev the other night, perhaps inspired subconsciously by Woody Allen. his ruminations on the psychological were very refreshing as this bit will attest.

It sometime happens that two already familiar, but not intimate, people
suddenly and rapidly draw closer to each other in the course of a few moments -
and an awareness of this intimacy is immediately expressed in their looks, in
their calm and friendly smiles, and in their very movements. This is precisely
what happened to Lavretsky and Liza. 'So that's what he's like,' she thought
looking fondly at him; 'so that's what you're like,' he thought as well.

Having thoroughly browsed Bolano's Last interview before Christmas it was perhaps hasty to outright buy it, but I did and finished it and the Turgenev yesterday on a day where the fresh snowfall was already an afterthought.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Rather Spent

I'm retiring early tonight. I may split my time between Zola and Turgenev.

Preparing For Proust

1998 wasn't a very fine time for me. My friend Roger Baylor and I embarked upon planned joint reading of Remembrance of Things Past. I think Roger was likely more interested in helping me than exploring thousands of pages of introspective prose. I made it through Swan's Way and then entropy prevailed. The project was placed aside and ultimately passed over so we could read Magic Mountain, Master and the Margarita and eventually Gravity's Rainbow in an effort which culminated in our founding samizdat.

Just about ten years later I was at the christening of my friend's Mark's daughter and I met his friend Eldon. Eldon hails from Bloomington and for leisure has read all of Remembrance three times. We had a delightful conversation, he was fascinated that we were reading the Zachary Leader biography of Kingsley Amis. I tacitly vowed then that I would tackle Proust again.

So here we are. I have decided that given my recent predilection for contemporary translations, I might initially sidestep the honored Moncrieff edition and opt for Lydia Davis' current effort. A stroke of luck presented itself as a local library branch had a copy of Davis' Swan's Way. I consider this prudent before any investment.

I have wrestled with myriad approaches these last few days. I think I will proceed one volume at a time, aiming to complete one each month, but allowing the process to be interspersed with other works.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

The Immoralist

Gide's slim, simmering paean to a praxic ethos strength and beauty was completed this afternoon. The consumptive protagonist cures himself through going native in Northern Africa and, likely, behaving inappropriately with adolescents.
Am I being prudish? Likely just tired.

My wife just finished The Butt by Will Self. I bought it for her.

I will be reading more Zola

Just a Glazing

A sprinkling of ice has decimated work and cancelled the schools. Such much for American resilience. I switched over to Gide's The Immoralist last night, my industry of last week appeared blocked. I'd like not to find fault with Trollope. I have been thinking about pneumatic pants, as evidenced in Antic Hay, as well the phrase, "sitting on stones" which symbolized melancholy in Buddenbrooks. Mouchette's sluttish bliss occupies time with O'Brien's salutation of stout as tonic. It is a rich life.

Monday, January 25, 2010


One of the most interesting things that I read yesterday was that Phil Jackson had bought 2666 by Bolano for Pau Gasol to read.
There's more to the story here . (scroll up for the entire essay)

Sunday, January 24, 2010


Well, my best friend bought a dog.

Staggering from that, I have been further addled by a week of congestion with oscillating intensity and debilitation. The surfeit of such is that I read 1200 pages in six days: a thousand of which qualify as of a literary bent. I finished Robinson Crusoe and Germinal. The former certainly leaves Gilligan's Island as a testament to sloth. It also suffered from religious sophistry of its rather cursed protagonist. The back ended episode with wolves in the Pyrenees was likewise unnecessary. I firmly enjoyed the latter as well, though the attempts at rescue and recovery in the concluding chapters were bit too timely, unfortunately. I look forward to reading more of Defoe and Zola, though I am presently immersed in Trollope with a sidelong interest in Dumas' Count of Monte Cristo.

Here's to some measure of recovery this week.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

At Swim-Two-Birds

The novel was completed last night, a true treat. There is much of Milton within and the sin of Pride. Unruly characters don't devote to authorial machinations and insurrection proves the result. I love novels laden not just with puns but fully realized jokes as well.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Unlikely Shifts

Today marks the first time I have ever been off for Martin Luther King Day. Outside the thaw appears over and aside from a launch to Whole Foods we have been reading indoors all day. I have read 150 pages of at swim-two-birds by Flann O'Brien and have been guffawing aloud all afternoon. My friend Roger is rather smitten with Donleavy's The Ginger Man and I regard this as the same quality of cut.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

A Welcome Thaw

Global tragedy competed with a local restoration of viable climate this week. I finished The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyl and Mr. Hyde by R.L. Stevenson and then Summertime by J.M. Coetzee. Both novels succeed on the virtue of their ingenious construction. Neither wants to admit much initially. I enjoyed that.

I have now plunged into Robinson Crusoe and may complete such this evening. The Secret History by Donna Tartt has been cracked. I am not as sure about that one.

My foray into Proust will hopefully be undertaken on the 30th.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Plus One

So, I finished Jeff in Venice, Death in Varanasi yesterday afternoon always plum to finish two books in the same day, except it wasn't. There was lack, a loss, most likely intentional in the second half of Geoff Dyer's novel. The set piece in India bothered me a smuch as I found the opening section, rife with posturing, as hilarious as anything I've read recently. In fact, I wanted to label (given that I have to classify or associate, how else could I make sense of this?) it as a slacker, raver Joanthan Coe. I noted to my wife that the book was adorned with blurbs from William Boyd, David Mitchell and Zadie Smith. She asked if they saw themselves as shallow as Jeff, the protagonist of the first and , possibly, the concluding sections of the novel. .

Sunday, January 10, 2010


This is not the river,
it's an explanation of the river
that replaced the river.

-- Dean Young

As I correct these proofs, I learn that a football player gave the Fascist salute to a cheering crowd of fans. Exactly as I used to do as a member of a Fascist youth group almost seventy years ago--except for the fact that I had to.

-- Umberto Eco

Explanations and compulsions are the rule of the day as the mercury remains below 20F. I finished The Children's Book earlier today and tend to agree that it was too bulky by half, though I regard the novel, and I mean such as a compliment, as being a worthy bookend to Pynchon's Against The Day.

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Joel's Book (again, quite)

Choosing A Thread

I haven't handled the juggling of three texts very well. No, it hasn't been terrible. There is simply a mist of confusion hovering over The Children's Book, if only to the degree that I can't instantly recall who is who's sibling nor necessarily the parentage of each. Dame Byatt has revealed in her text around p. 400 that the characters aren't quite sure either.

I fear this will prove harmful for my finishing House of Mirth. I bought Cunning Man by Robertson Davies yesterday and it has a certain sparkle.

Monday, January 04, 2010

Even Now

The holiday weekend afforded considerable respite and the presence of mind to divide my attentions between three novels. The core this spell also witnessed my reading The Shawl by Cynthia Ozick. I was impressed by the story, but found excessive praise larded upon it by Elie Wiesel and Harold Bloom a tad hyperbolic. The piece demonstrates an excellent ear for dialogue and plumbs psychic scars that I try not to envision.

I am still enjoying the gilded achievement which is The Children's Book.

I encountered the name Lily Bart in Generosity by Richard Powers. I realized that I had never read House of Mirth by Edith Wharton. The means to remedy such were little more than a holiday weekend and sub-freezing temperatures. I also picked up Geof Dyer's latest, my inclination proving to be but David Mitchell's endorsement on the back matter. Maybe I'll write about Dyer later in the week; we have a history.

Friday, January 01, 2010

My Year

Our day sheens with a brittle sun, frozen to the core and the streets are mute. Pondering the last year, it shouldn't be regarded as a closed vessel, heaped with earth and forgotten. The time offered comfort and challenges, my reading, perhaps, more so.

There was a time when I duly noted each finished book and compiled lists for my own fleeting satisfaction. I don't possess the vanity for such any longer. As I noted on samizdat, finishing The Pope's Rhinoceros and Moby Dick was an achievement, an experience only enriched by reading such with my friends. My Graham Greene month was a success. I believe I also read six novels in tandem with my wife which is always a treat. Carpenter's Gothic shines easily in that context.
2009 was also bracketed by A.S. Byatt. I completed three of her novels last year and am enjoying The Children's Book presently. I find a necessary nerdy assurance in her work. That likely portends more about me than the novels The Scandinavians featured prominently across the board and The Lazarus Project has left a haunting vapor trail, much like Sebald or Bolano from years past.

There were number of hefty books left unfinished: Bleak House, Imperial and The Kindly Ones are only a few.

What do I harbor for 2010? I think the time is right for Proust. I also think I should devote a summer month to Flann O’Brien. Here’s to hubris and all my friends.